Covenant Love, Lesson 6.2

Covenant Love: Introducing the Biblical Worldview

Lesson Six: The New and Everlasting Covenant

Lesson Objectives

  1. To read the New Testament with understanding.
  2. To understand how the New Testament depicts Jesus as the fulfillment of the covenants of the Old Testament.
  3. To appreciate, especially, the importance of God’s everlasting covenant with David for understanding the mission of Jesus and the Church as it is presented in the New Testament.

II. The Birth of the Messiah

A. Annunciation and Visitation

Salvation history in the Old Testament reached its climax in God's covenant with David. We could say that the hope of Israel at the time Jesus was born centered on God's promises to David.

And we will see as the story of Jesus unfolds in the Gospels that much of the plot and the tension hinges on this question about Him: "Could this perhaps be the son of David?" (see Matthew 12:23; 20:30-31; 21:9,15; 22:44-45).

In all the familiar scenes of Jesus' life, we see the Gospels answering that yes, Jesus is the long awaited son of David, the son of God sent to restore the kingdom to Israel.

This is the message of the Annunciation, the announcement of His birth by the angel. Gabriel tells Mary that God will give to Jesus "the throne of David His father, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there will be no end" (see Luke 1:32-33).

What is the angel saying? That Jesus is the son of David, that he will rule over a restored kingdom of Israel ("the house of Jacob") for all time.

In Mary's Visitation of her kinswoman, Elizabeth, we again hear echoes of the promises of salvation history.

Mary cries out in song that Jesus' coming is God's answer to all Israel's prayers, a fulfillment of "His promises to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever" (see Luke 1:55).

His Mother wants us to know that as the son of David, her Son will fulfill God's covenant promise to Abraham - that "in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing" (see Genesis 22:18).

This is stated even more forcefully in the song of Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband, when their child, John the Baptist, is born (see Luke 1:67-79).

What's happening, Zechariah prophesies, is nothing less than God visiting and saving His people. He is making good on everything "He promised through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old."

In Jesus, Zechariah declares, God has "raised up a horn of salvation within the house of David...mindful of His holy covenant and of the oath He swore to Abraham."

B. Nativity and the Temple

The story of Jesus' birth or Nativity is also told in a Davidic key.

Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary went to "the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he [Joseph] was of the house and family of David" (see Luke 2:4). As we saw in our last lesson, it was in Bethlehem that David was born and anointed with oil by Samuel (see 1 Samuel 16:1-13).

Matthew, in his Gospel account of Jesus' birth, also wants us to know that He is the long-awaited "Messiah" and "King of the Jews" (see Matthew 2:2,4).

We see this in the answer the chief priests and scribes give to the ruthless Herod (see Matthew 2:5-6). They quote two Old Testament passages (Micah 5:1-2 and 2 Samuel 5:2) to tell Herod that the Messiah was expected from Bethlehem and that he will be a "shepherd" to God's chosen people.

Even one of our most familiar passages from the Gospel - "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel" (see Matthew 1:3) - refers to a promised son of David.

Matthew is recalling a prophecy of Isaiah who, in the period when the kingdom of Israel was divided, served as a prophet to "the house of David," serving the heirs of the Davidic line (see Isaiah 6-7).

In a time of distress, Isaiah foretold the birth to a virgin of a savior-like king who would be born of David's line and would be called "Emmanuel," a name that literally means "God with us" (see Isaiah 7:13-14).

Many believed that this prophecy had been fulfilled in the birth of King Hezekiah, a great and righteous king (see 2 Kings 18:1-6).

Matthew, however, is telling us that the birth of Hezekiah was only a partial fulfillment of Isaiah's promise. Jesus is the true and ultimate fulfillment.

We hear Isaiah's voice again in the story of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple, especially in the song of Simeon.

Simeon sees in Jesus, the "salvation" promised by God. Notice that the promise Simeon sees fulfilled is not only for the chosen people Israel. It is a salvation that is both "glory for Your people Israel" but also "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" - that is, a beacon for all the peoples of the world.

Simeon is invoking here the "universal" or worldwide promises made about David's kingdom - that the restored kingdom of David would be an international empire stretching to the ends of the earth and embracing all nations and peoples (see Psalm 2:8; 72:8,11).

In an echo of God's promise to Abraham' descendants, the Scriptures tell us that by the Davidic King and Kingdom "shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed, all the nations" (see Psalm 72:17).

Isn't it interesting that the last two stories we have about Jesus' childhood involve the Temple?

God promised not only that the son of David would be His son, but that this son would build a "house," a Temple to the heavenly Father's name. Of course, that promise was partially fulfilled when David's son, Solomon, built the glorious Temple in Jerusalem.

As the new and true Son of David, Jesus too will build a "temple" to God's name. That temple will be His body and the Church (see John 2:21; Matthew 16:18).

We see this foreshadowed in the story about Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the Temple. What does Jesus tell them? Like a dutiful son of David, he replies: "Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?" (see Luke 2:49).

Continue to Section 3

Other Lessons

  • Lesson One: The Master Key that Unlocks the Bible
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To learn the "big-picture" overview of the Bible - the story that the Bible tells.
    2. To understand the concept of "covenant" and its importance for reading and interpreting the Bible.
    3. To learn in general detail the six major covenants in the Bible.

    Begin Lesson One

  • Lesson Two: From Sabbath to Flood
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read Genesis 1-12 with understanding.
    2. To learn the meaning of the first two covenants of salvation history - the Sabbath, and the covenant made with Noah.
    3. To begin to understand the "patterns" of biblical history.

    Begin Lesson Two

  • Lesson Three: Our Father, Abraham
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read Genesis 12-50 with understanding.
    2. To understand God’s covenant with Abraham and to see how that covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
    3. To appreciate key figures and elements in the Abraham story - Melchizedek, circumcision, the sacrifice of Isaac - as they are interpreted in the Church’s tradition.

    Begin Lesson Three

  • Lesson Four: The First-Born Son of God
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy with understanding.
    2. To understand God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai and to see how this covenant looks forward to and is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
    3. To appreciate the key figures and events - Moses, the Passover, and the vocation of Israel as “a kingdom of priests” - as they are interpreted in the Church’s tradition.

    Begin Lesson Four

  • Lesson Five: A Throne For All Generations
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To finish reading the Old Testament (from Joshua to Malachi) and to read with understanding.
    2. To understand the broad outlines of the history of Israel in light of God’s covenant with Abraham.
    3. To appreciate the crucial importance of God’s everlasting covenant with David.

    Begin Lesson Five